Dave Van Patten has a strong belief in the work of Northeast Passage (NEP), a UNH-based program that serves individuals on campus and beyond through its adaptive sports and recreational therapy programs. It’s a well managed organization, he says, with a mission that aligns with his interests and values.
And he has a personal belief in the work of NEP, as well.
His brother received a head injury playing a family football game on Thanksgiving several years ago.
“He never fully recovered, and remains disabled. He may have found hope and motivation through a program like Northeast Passage.” Van Patten says.
And that’s why he and his wife, Dana, chose to make a bequest gift of $4.5 million, to ensure the group’s good work will continue in perpetuity.
“I made the gift to help others like my brother put the pieces of their lives back together and to live a fulfilling life,”says Van Patten, whose daughter Chelsi graduated from UNH in 2007.
Donor support means Northeast Passage is able to keep client costs low—which is important, when you consider that nearly a third of people with disabilities are living below the poverty line. Clients typically are asked to pay just 8 percent of what services cost. Support also means the organization keeps a professional full-time staff, which adds to their success.
“At Northeast Passage, something really good happens for someone every day. That means that every donation can be attached to an amazing, often life changing, moment of its own,” says executive director and founder Jill Gravink ‘84.
The group offers three competitive sports teams (campus sled hockey, power soccer and quad rugby) and athletes who are part of NEP are fully integrated alongside NCAA athletes at UNH facilities, taking advantage of both practice and competition opportunities. The organization serves people as young as five and as old as 92.
Along the way, says Keely Ames, operations manager for Northeast Passage, it’s been donor support that has helped build the program and garnered NEP a national reputation for therapeutic recreation. For clients like Robbie Dudzisz ’17, Northeast Passage has been a place of support.
“This program has had a very positive impact on my life. The first few months after suffering spinal cord injury were extremely difficult and foreign. The emotional side of dealing with a life changing injury is just as demanding as the physical,” says Dudzisz. “Once I was introduced to the quad rugby team I knew I had found what I needed. Through rugby I’ve met great people, gained confidence and built strength.”
The first question NEP asks clients, regardless of their age or ability: what do you want to do? With gifts like the Van Pattens’, they’ll be able to do much more.